Racing: Business takes over to spoil the grey romance

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The Independent Online
The King George VI Chase had been billed as a battle between the greys One Man and Suny Bay, and although they started as joint-favourites, with another grey, Senor El Betrutti, a popular outsider, they were all eclipsed by a younger, stronger rival. Richard Edmondson reports from Kempton.

Business has been good this Christmas for John Hales, the manufacturer of Teletubbies and owner of One Man, but yesterday it was the turn of another firm here in the King George VI Chase. One Man failed dramatically in his quest for a third consecutive crown as See More Business swept the old guard into the gutter.

The seven-year-old's victory was the most notable success in the careers of trainer and jockey Paul Nicholls and Andrew Thornton, and vindication for owners who had bought the gelding twice.

See More Business was relatively petite as a young horse, so Paul Barber and John Keighley let him go after purchasing him unseen. Two point-to- point wins later the cheque book was out again and See More Business was back in their colours. The only thing small about the horse now is his price of 7-1 with Coral for the 1998 Gold Cup.

See More Business was only allowed to run in yesterday's race after Nicholls had walked the course to ensure the ground was sufficiently soft. He found the going suitable for otters.

Further rain held off until the runners emerged for the big race under a monochrome sky. Overhead there were seagulls who had taken an effortless ride inland on the high winds.

It was not possible for See More Business to be the most compelling sight in yesterday's parade. That distinction had to go to the three greys in the race who lent proceedings the look of a display by the Spanish Riding School. One Man, the drifting favourite out to 9-4 to join Suny Bay, was the fairest of the three, and was made further remarkable by his crimped tail.

In the testing ground, the field went at assault-course pace for the main body of the race in an effort to conserve energy. Barton Bank led, One Man jumped economically, stapled to the rail by Richard Dunwoody, and, gradually, See More Business exhibited that he belonged in this class.

"He was a little bit careful early on and he took a bit of time to warm to his task," Thornton reported. "I gave him a chance by taking him to the outside and then he started popping nicely."

Down the far side for the final time there was further popping, that of fancied bubbles. Barton Bank disappeared after belting four out, at the same time as One Man was battling to get back into the race after assaulting the previous fence. The grey actually landed in the lead at the first obstacle in the straight, but then his fusebox went. Hales's horse looked rather Dipsy as he began staggering. One Man finished fifth, ultimately beaten 27 lengths and a distance, and there was much pathetic about the way he walked past the post.

Nicholls had positioned himself between the last two fences and, as his horse slogged through the mud, he must almost have been terrified to see another animal surfing smoothly at See More Business's flank. It was only almost though, because the beast to loom was Challenger Du Luc, who has done more looming than the Lancashire cotton mills.

On the run-in, Tony McCoy actually took a pull on Martin Pipe's gelding and still found himself in front. Then, suddenly, Challenger was a challenger no more. He decided to settle for second, for the fourth consecutive occasion and the ninth time in all.

This surrender should take nothing away from the victory of See More Business and particularly his 25-year-old former amateur champion jockey. Andrew Thornton drives further than Tiger Woods in the course of a year pursuing rides and is a popular figure among his colleagues. When he removes his contact lenses Thornton's sight is so poor he cannot see the horse he is sitting on.

Paul Barber too cannot view all the cows in his dairy herd, but that is because he has so many of them. In Somerset they talk of two sections of the county, the 2,500-acre slab he owns (the pasture for 1,400 cows) and the little portion left over. Barber and Keighley made special mention yesterday of Timmy Murphy, the suspended jockey who made the saddle warm for Thornton. He will be back.

See More Business himself may return next at the little festival they hold at the foot of Prestbury Hill each March. "The ultimate has got to be the Gold Cup," Barber said. "You cannot get higher than that." By the way connections celebrated yesterday, and Nicholls's face was oscillating gently as he tried to keep composure, you could tell they thought a King George was a long way up from base camp as well.

GOLD CUP (Cheltenham, 19 March): Coral: 9-2 Dorans Pride, 7-1 See More Business, 8-1 The Grey Monk, 10-1 Imperial Call & Suny Bay; Ladbrokes: 4-1 Dorans Pride, 5-1 The Grey Monk, 8-1 Suny Bay, 10-1 Imperial Call, 12-1 See More Business, 16-1 Rough Quest & Cyborgo; Tote: 5-1 Dorans Pride, 6-1 Suny Bay, 8-1 The Grey Monk, 10-1 Imperial Call, 12-1 Rough Quest & See More Business, 14-1 Addington Boy; William Hill: 4-1 Dorans Pride, 8-1 Suny Bay & The Grey Monk, 10-1 Imperial Call, 12-1 See More Business, 16-1 Rough Quest.